Sunday, April 25, 2010

OHL Playoff Predictions - OHL Finals

With Windsor's remarkable (and perhaps expected) comeback finalized today with a game seven victory over Kitchener, the 2010 Ontario Hockey League Finals are set.

The Windsor Spitfires will travel to Barrie to face the Colts in game one of the finals on Tuesday night.

Most importantly, I went 2 for 2 in my predictions of the Conference finals. This boosts my record in the playoffs to an acceptable (although not tremendous) 8-6.

Needless to say, I'm definitely psyched to see how this year's finals shake down. Here's what I think...

1. Barrie Colts vs. 1. Windsor Spitfires
Season Series: Barrie 2-0
Barrie 4, Windsor 2
Windsor 5, Barrie 8
My Analysis:
Both the Spits and the Colts have incredibly deep forward units. Both can roll three legitimate scoring lines, both can play both ways and both are imposing physical units. At the start of the playoffs, I would have said Barrie had the advantage in the physicality department, but Windsor's forwards have really stepped it up. Guys like Zack Kassian, Kenny Ryan, Justin Shugg, Eric Wellwood, Dale Mitchell, among others have really upped the pain quote and are playing inspired hockey.
Some may not agree, but if we're comparing a top four of Alex Pietrangelo, Nick Crawford, T.J. Brodie, and Dalton Prout with a top four of Cam Fowler, Ryan Ellis, Mark Cundari, and Marc Cantin/Harry Young, I'm taking the Barrie combo. I think they play a smarter and more composed game. Those four in particular were excellent against St. Mike's where Barrie showed they could play a tough, shutdown type of game too as opposed to offensive throttle style many had them pigeon held for.
I think this one is a slight advantage for Barrie, but only slight. Philip Grubauer has played a lot better in these OHL playoffs than many have given him credit for. He's had a few rough patches but he was a large reason why Windsor was able to come back from 3-0 down against Kitchener. Meanwhile, Mavric Parks has had an outstanding season and has carried that over to a strong performance in these playoffs. I think Grubauer's unpredictability gives the slight nod to Barrie.
The Tipping Point:
I think what really tips this series in favor of Barrie is stamina. Barrie has essentially walked through these playoffs so far. Meanwhile, Windsor just has to put forward every effort in a seven game series. Barrie is rested and hungry and I think they'll translate the success they had in the regular season against Windsor to a victory in the playoffs and a trip to the Memorial Cup.
Prediction: Barrie in 6

Let's hear your prediction!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday Top 10 - Biggest Stories of the 2010 far

The 2010 OHL playoffs are winding down. We're now in the Conference Finals and thus far, I'm not really sure there have been too many surprises. In the East, we've got the match up of the two teams everyone expected to see; Barrie and Mississauga. In the West, we've got Windsor going up against Kitchener...perhaps a mild surprise but realistically there were a handful of team that had the chance to go up against the Spits in the West final. However, even though there haven't really been to many surprises, that doesn't mean that there haven't been some good stories.

I present to you a look at ten of those stories, in no particular order.

Jeff Skinner's Scoring
No individual player has had as good a playoffs as Skinner has to date. He has 16 goals in 15 games now, including 4 in the first two games of the West finals. Needless to say, he's been a beast. All season long, I've felt like he's been massively underrated by those ranking the NHL draft (especially by NHL Central Scouting). We hear concerns about his size and lack of acceleration and straight ahead speed. But we don't hear enough about his ability to fight through traffic and get himself in goal areas. Windsor has some of the best defensive forwards in the league (Scott Timmins, Eric Wellwood, Adam Henrique), and so far Skinner has been able to elude all of them. He may not be the fastest skater, but that doesn't make him a poor skater overall. His ability to turn and maneuver in close to the net (agility) is second to none. Not to mention that he's been taking an absolute beating these entire playoffs, but continues to get back up and go right to those danger areas. If his performance in these playoffs does not elevate him into the first half of the NHL first round, I'd be very surprised.

Jared Knight's Breakout
Another draft eligible player who's suffered from a lack of attention this year is London's Knight. While Skinner has his concerns over size and speed, I'm not entirely sure what's prevented Knight from receiving more hype. Sure he's averaged size, and sure he has diabetes, but he's ferocious in his pursuit of goals and is aggressive in attacking the net like few peers available from the OHL. He's turned this into a tremendous performance in these OHL playoffs with 10 goals in 12 playoff games. And even though his Knights have been eliminated, I think NHL scouts would have had to take notice of his ability to turn up the heat when it mattered most. I think he's definitely cemented his place in the first two rounds of the NHL draft...even if he failed to earn an invite to the NHL combine.

Lack of Star Goaltending
Now let me get this point straight. I don't mean to say we haven't had some electrifying goaltending performances...which we have (see Scott Wedgewood vs. Windsor as an example). What I mean to say is that we haven't had a goaltender who has come out and stolen games for his team all the way thus far. Guys like Mavric Parks, Brandon Maxwell, and Petr Mrazek have strung together some good games, but they've also had mediocre ones too. The games have been relatively high scoring so far and many teams have had to change goaltenders at some point during their series'. Is there a goaltender in the Conference finals who's going to put his team on his back and bring them to the Memorial Cup, or are we going to continue to see big offensive performances?

Kitchener over Windsor 2-0
Who would have thought? Especially considering that Windsor had just finished running over Erie and Plymouth, while Kitchener had to go through war (and 13 games) to get by Saginaw and London. But the Rangers have man handled the Spitfires offensively. They are winning all the loose puck battles, they are out skating the Spits, and they are finishing all of their chances. Philip Grubauer hasn't even been that bad in the series (although he hasn't been great either). The Windsor defense definitely has to share fault as they have been atrocious thus far and have not been able to contain Kitchener's best forwards (or John Moore and Ryan Murphy from the back end). Let's be honest, with the way Kitchener's offense is clicking right now, it's going to be very difficult for Windsor to win 4 of the next 5. If there is one team in the OHL that can do it, it's definitely Windsor, but as of right now, I'm not liking their odds.

The Ryan Murphy Show
Just how good is this kid? 5 goals and 9 assists in 15 playoff games thus far. Yes...he's undersized for the defensive position, but he's made tremendous strides defensively this year and is definitely not a defensive liability. And offensively...well it's been quite some time since a 16 year old rookie defenseman has been able to bring the puck up ice like Murphy does. I'm not even sure Drew Doughty was this dynamic offensively in his rookie season. His ability to transition from the defensive end to the opposing blueline so quickly is one of the main reasons Windsor is down 2-0 so far. He's a game changer and regardless of his size, if he continues to play like this, he's going to be a top pick in 2011. Once you get Grapes' attention, it's game over.

Lack of Upsets in Round 1
If we fast forward to the start of the playoffs, one of my readers said he/she felt like the parity between the OHL's top teams and those near the bottom of the playoffs was as big as they could remember. Naturally, I somewhat disagreed and have since eaten crow. The favored teams in this league completely ran over the weaker competition in round 1, save maybe the Kitchener/Saginaw series and the Brampton/Kingston series. Not a single upset victory (unless you consider Brampton's victory an upset...which most won't). So while this wasn't surprising for most of you, I think it's definitely still a story.

Windsor Running Over Plymouth
Mike Vellucci and the Plymouth Whalers played the Windsor Spitfires very tough during the regular season. They went out and acquired big physical forwards in Phil McRae, James Livingston, and Josh Brittain to try and take it to Windsor. And what did they get for it in round 2? Getting outscored 18-6 in four games on the way to a four game sweep. Not to mention that we had the hype of the Taylor Hall vs. Tyler Seguin battle for first overall showcased. Seguin went on to go pointless in the series...which prompted many to assume he was injured. Either way, I think Windsor's ability to run over the Whalers was definitely surprising and a big story considering all the story lines centered around it.

J.P. Anderson Takes over for Chris Carrozzi...Again
Last year, Anderson played 26 games in the regular season and was clearly the back up as an OHL rookie. Come the playoffs, starter Chris Carrozzi struggled and Anderson went in to save the day. Which he did, putting forth some of the greater goaltending performances I've ever seen in the OHL playoffs where he lead the Majors to the second round and a near victory over the eventual East Champs in Brampton. This year, Carrozzi and Anderson were platooned. However, I think it's not controversial to say Carrozzi had the better season and as a result got the starting gig for the 2010 playoffs. But after some lukewarm performances (both by him and the team), Cameron went back to Anderson who has since gotten the team to the East finals. He's been quite good in the series against Barrie so far...even facing 58 shots and stopping 55 last night. But Carrozzi has to feel pretty helpless after losing the playoff starting gig again.

Nazem Kadri Falls to Kitchener
Nazem Kadri was absolutely sensational to start these playoffs. He had 14 points in the 5 game series against Guelph and was completely dominant. It looked like that was going to continue into the Kitchener series too, as he had 11 points in the first 4 games. But for as good as he was to start the playoffs, people are only going to remember how poor he played in the final three games of the series, where Kitchener held him goalless, to two points, and a combined -6. So while Kadri still leads the 2010 playoffs in scoring (despite London being eliminated), will people remember how dominant he was in the first 10 games? Or will people remember the end of the Kitchener series?

The Barrie Colts Aren't About to Choke
While Barrie dominated the regular season in the Eastern Conference and loaded up their line up for a run to the Memorial Cup, I think a lot of people were still eager to see how they'd perform under the pressure of the OHL playoffs. No more wondering. It's pretty obvious they are for real and are playing for keeps. They ran over Barrie and Brampton in round 1 and 2, and outshot the defensive first Mississauga Majors 55-34 on the way to a 2-1 series lead last night. They have shown an ability to play offensively, defensively and physically. And their powerplay continues to function at an obscene level (around 34%). These Colts definitely look like they've got a chance to match what Sheldon Keefe's 2000 Colts did in making the Memorial Cup.

Anything you think I've missed?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

OHL Playoff Predictions - Conference Finals

Alright, so I went .500 last round yet again. However going 2-2 in the second round is a lot less embarrassing than going 4-4 in round one. This brings my overall record to 6-6 for the playoffs.

Quite frankly, I was really surprised at how the Spitfires ran over the Whalers. Plymouth played Windsor so hard during the regular season and really loaded up at the deadline for this meeting. Unfortunately, they pretty much got embarrassed. Windsor has just been unstoppable so far in the playoffs and you have to start wondering if anyone will be able to stop the train.

As for the Kitchener/London series, I acknowledged that I felt like the series could go either way. Ultimately, I felt like London was at the top of its game and that the Rangers had some holes the Knights could abuse. Especially true because of how well the Knights played the Rangers in the regular season. I do have to admit that I'm happy to see Kitchener win as it's good to see a different match up than the Spitfires/Knights one we were starting to get accustomed to.

So let's look at the Conference Finals, which get under way tomorrow night in Barrie.

Eastern Conference

1. Barrie Colts vs. 3. Mississauga St. Michael's Majors
Season Series: Tie - 3-3
My Analysis: I think this is the series in the Eastern Conference that everyone wanted to see; division rivals and the two best teams in the Conference. These two teams played each other very tough during the season too. So what will break the tide? I think a couple of things. For one, the Majors defense has not looked as strong this playoffs than it did early or mid season. They struggled at times against Ottawa and I think the team should feel fortunate they got out of that series. We all know how strong the Colts are offensively, so the Majors could run into some trouble if they continue to take some bad penalties and make mistakes with the puck like they did against Ottawa. Secondly, I have a lot more confidence in Mavric Parks than I do J.P. Anderson or Chris Carrozzi right now. Parks is playing lights out hockey while neither of the Majors goaltenders (would appear to be Anderson's job the rest of the way) are on top of their game (at least IMO). The Majors will battle and they will finally give the Colts their first defeat of the post season, but I can't see them winning the series.
Prediction: Barrie in 6

Western Conference

1. Windsor Spitfires vs. 3. Kitchener Rangers
Season Series: Tie - 2-2
My Analysis: In the West, the match-up is eerily similar. A one versus a three seed in which the season series was split. The Spitfires have looked absolutely unstoppable this playoffs and appear to be poised for another Memorial Cup run. Meanwhile, the Rangers keep clawing their way into the next round. But does that start to add up and does fatigue set in. The Rangers have played two hard fought series totaling 13 games. The Spits have played two run over series totaling 8 games. I think there is no question that Windsor will be the fresher team. And considering that the Spits are already the better team, I think it makes them hard to beat. The Rangers band of scrappy and intelligent forwards will likely help them win a couple of games and give the Spits at least their hardest fought series yet. But I can't see the Rangers overcoming what appears to be (at this stage of the game) a multiple headed monster.
Prediction: Windsor in 6

Let's hear it folks...anyone else up for a Barrie and Windsor OHL final?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunday Top 10 - Reasons to Watch the Under 18's

Sure, we've got two HUGE Game 7's in the OHL Conference Semi Finals happening on Monday, the OHL conference finals starting Wednesday, and the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs starting mid week, but hockey fans (and OHL fans in particular) should still be gearing up for the World Under 18's taking place from April 13 to April 23 in Belarus.

TSN is going to carry some of the games, which means we'll get a chance to watch Canada take on the world without having to live off latkes in Bobruisk, Belarus.

Here is TSN's television schedule for the tournament:

Sunday April 18 - Canada vs. Sweden - 8:30 a.m.
Tuesday April 20 - Quarterfinal - 8:30 a.m.
Wednesday April 21 - Semi Final - 8:30 a.m.
Friday April 23 - Bronze Medal Game - 8:30 a.m.
Friday April 23 - Gold Medal Game - 12:00 p.m.

So why should you watch the Under 18's? I'm going to give you ten good reasons!

10. What Else is on at 8:30 a.m.?
Let's be honest, I'm not sure I even have to mention this one. Not sure how many readers I've got on here that also watch Live with Regis and Kelly, but the television schedule for 8:30 in the morning isn't very strong for the sports fanatic (unless you're watching Sports Centre with Onrait and O'Toole). Not only do the televised games provide you with quality entertainment early in the morning, but they don't interfere with your television schedule later in the day. So whether you want to watch Game 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs, or American Idol, your habits won't be interrupted. The hockey is actually tremendous and really isn't much of a step below than the Under 20's which have reached god like status among Canadian citizens. For those of you who work (like myself), just hope you've got a DVR that can record the games for when you get home.

9. The Talent of the European Nations
It's always good to see what the other countries in the world have to offer, especially when it comes to the future of hockey. But for OHL fans, what these countries (Sweden and Russia especially) have to offer may actually be the future of OHL hockey. Every year, some of the top players in this tournament end up playing in the OHL the following year (or two years later). At last year's tournament, Alex Burmistrov and Robin Lehner starred for Russia and Sweden. In 2008, Andrei Loktionov and Evgeni Grachev starred for Russia, while Richard Panik was excellent for Slovakia. Which European players from this year's tournament will make the jump to the OHL next season as part of the Import Draft? It seems that more and more Russian players could end up making the jump to the CHL in order to boost their NHL draft stock and to elude the long term commitment of the KHL. But Sweden is now in talks of putting in place a new rule which could have a similar effect on young players as the KHL has. Read about it here. Essentially, Sweden wants to make junior players sign a contract with their hockey federation which ties them to Swedish junior and men's league's until the age of 22 (unless they can pay $500,000) to break it. Does this lead to more Swedish players coming to the CHL, especially if they have aspirations of making the NHL before the age of 22?

8. Greg McKegg's Chance to Shine
Playing in Erie, Saginaw, or Plymouth can be the kiss of death for a prospect wanting to be drafted in the first round of the NHL draft. In the past 8 years, only two players from these organizations have gone in the first round of the NHL draft (Ryan O'Marra in 2005 and Matt Corrente in 2006). Now, these organizations are great and I mean no disrespect to them, but in Canada they receive little to no exposure. Now I know what you're saying, TYLER SEGUIN DUDE! And yes, Seguin's exploits this year have definitely put Plymouth on the Canadian media radar. But what about Erie or Saginaw? Do the players in those cities really generate buzz in Canada? Not really. And while NHL scouts surely make the trips to these places just the same as any other OHL arena, the players often suffer from a lack of draft hype. Greg McKegg is a great player, had a tremendous season in Erie (after being a very high OHL draft pick), and yet do we ever hear his name being mentioned in the same breath as other fringe NHL first rounders from the OHL like Jeff Skinner, Tyler Toffoli, Ryan Martindale, Ryan Spooner, etc? This is McKegg's chance to shine in the spotlight. If he can have a really good tournament, he's got a chance to cement himself right with that group or possibly even ahead of them.

7. Does Erik Gudbranson Have the Mojo?
Fresh off his naming by Central Scouting as the 3rd best player from the OHL for the draft (ahead of Cam Fowler), can Gudbranson build off that momentum in the scouting community? There is no question that Gudbranson had a bit of a disappointing season for reasons beyond his control. A knee injury and then a bout with mono really prevented him from hitting a groove. Now he'll return to the Under 18's, where he played solidly for Canada last year as an underager. As a returning player (and one with leadership qualities), there's a chance he could be the captain of the team, which means all eyes will be on him. He's one of the highest rated players in the tournament and he's going to be expected to lead Canada's defensive corps. If he has a very strong tournament, does he solidify that top defenseman ranking? If he has a mediocre tournament, does that drop him? A lot riding for him.

6. A Chance to Increase Draft Stock
Nevermind a guy like Greg McKegg, or Erik Gudbranson, but the Under 18's serve as a tremendous opportunity for players to elevate their NHL draft stock. Last year, Barrie's Kyle Clifford used this tournament to spring board himself into early second round range (after being ranked 182nd by CSS). It also helped Calvin de Haan move up into the first half of the first round. Who on Team Canada really impresses the scouts this year? There are 13 OHL guys on this team, some of which have flown under the radar this year. Is it Owen Sound's Geoffrey Schemitsch, whose solid rookie season has finally started to generate hype? Is it Sarnia's Nathan Chiarlitti who was trapped on a struggling Sarnia team this year and not even ranked by Central Scouting? Or is the chance for someone like Steven Shipley or Ryan Spooner to prove that they belong in the first round?

5. What Else Does Canada Have to Offer?
I've spent all this time talking about what the OHL has to offer, but the tournament serves as a venue to check out the other top young talent Canada has to offer. Prince George's (WHL) Brett Connolly has been injured for most of the season, but he's a potential power forward who could go in the top 10, possibly even top 5 (with a solid tournament). Seattle's (WHL) Calvin Pickard (brother of Nashville first rounder Chet) is quite possibly the best goaltender available from the CHL for this year's draft. While Everett (WHL) defenseman Ryan Murray isn't even eligible for the NHL Draft until 2012 (thanks to a late birthday like Ottawa's Cody Ceci), and he's turned heads in the WHL this season. Some are calling the best and most impressive 16 year old defenseman the WHL has ever seen. This tournament serves to provide you with a look at what the rest of the country has to offer in this age group.

4. Potential of an all OHL blueline
Fresh off the hyping of Ryan Murray in reason number five, I'm going to throw a different scenario at you for reason four. With 6 of the 7 Canadian defenseman coming from the Ontario Hockey League, there is a chance that Canada could be primarily icing an all Ontario blueline. That's to say if Team Canada chooses to ease Murray into a significant role, seeing as he's such a young player for this tournament.

3. John McFarland Watch
All season long, it's been a John McFarland free fall watch in the NHL draft rankings. He's gone from a potential top 5 pick to being ranked at the bottom of the first round now by most scouting services. With his play in the OHL this season, quite frankly I'm surprised he hasn't fallen further down. The one thing that saves him (outside of his NHL size, speed and shot) is his performance whenever he puts on the Canadian jersey. Last year at the Under 17's he lead Team Ontario to the gold by scoring 9 goals and 13 points in 6 games. Then at the Under 18's he had 3 goals and 8 points in 6 games as a underager. Then this summer he captained Team Canada to gold at the Under 18 Ivan Hlinka tournament, scoring 5 goals and 7 points in 4 games. In his last three international tournaments, McFarland has 17 goals and 28 points in 16 games. This Under 18's doesn't look much different as he scored a hat trick in Canada's 5-4 exhibition loss to Finland this week. With another good showing internationally, McFarland can likely impress enough people to get himself back in contention for a spot in the first half of the NHL first round.

2. The Talent of the United States
The defending Champions have medalled in this tournament for six straight years, including a trip to the finals in 4 of the last 5 years (3 golds in that time). There is no question in my mind that they are the favourites to win Under 18 gold again this year, especially considering the team has played together all season long against top competition in the USHL. However while you're marveling at the talent the United States now boasts, don't forget to check out a few players in particular. Starting netminder and 2009 goaltender of this tournament, Jack Campbell has already committed to Windsor for next season. Star winger Brandon Saad is likely heading to Saginaw too. Outside of those two, there are 13 players with OHL draft ties; Chase Balisy (London), Kevin Clare (Erie), Adam Clendening (London), Tyler Biggs (Oshawa), Austin Czarnik (Windsor), John Gibson (Kitchener), Kevin Gravel (Plymouth), Andy Iles (Sault Ste. Marie), Stephan Johns (Windsor), Jon Merrill (Plymouth), Mike Mersch (Erie), Bryan Rust (Mississauga), Jarred Tinordi (London). While you shouldn't expect the majority of these guys in OHL uniforms anytime soon, history tells that that at least a couple of them are likely to be in the OHL next year. Also, don't forget Peterborough's Austin Watson was added to this team too.

1. Canada as the Under Dog
It's not very often that we can call ourselves the under dogs in hockey, but there is no doubt that we aren't favoured to win this tournament. In a way that makes it exciting, perhaps more so than other tournaments. Expectations aren't set incredibly high and these guys can just go play some hockey and do the best they can for their country. We as the audience need to support them and give them a reason to dig deep and bring home that gold medal that has eluded us for the majority of this tournament's short history. So let's hear it folks. Go Canada Go!

In case you missed it here is Canada's roster for this tournament as well as some general information about what the IIHF Under 18's are all about.

Anything you think I've missed? Are you going to watch the Under 18's now?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

2010 NHL Central Scouting Final Rankings

This afternoon, NHL Central Scouting released its final rankings for the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

Here is the breakdown of how OHL players ranked:

1. Tyler Seguin
2. Taylor Hall
4. Erik Gudbranson
5. Cam Fowler
11. Alexander Burmistrov
14. Austin Watson
15. John McFarland
16. Tyler Toffoli
27. Ryan Martindale
33. Ivan Telegin
34. Jeff Skinner
39. Ryan Spooner
41. Brock Beukeboom
43. Steven Shipley
53. Justin Shugg
55. Joey Hishon
60. Stephen Silas
61. Andrew Yogan
62. Freddie Hamilton
64. Brandon Archibald
66. Greg McKegg
69. Christian Thomas
73. Dalton Smith
76. Devante Smith Pelly
82. Jared Knight
84. Josh Shalla
90. Sam Carrick
92. Michael Sgarbossa
96. Philip Lane
101. Gregg Sutch
103. Cameron Wind
123. Geoffrey Schemitsch
143. Adam Sedlak
151. Reid McNeill
154. Brandon Alderson
156. Austin Levi
158. Joe Rogalski
160. Myles McCauley
163. Corey Durocher
178. Derek Froats
183. Mike Schwindt
185. Taylor Carnevale
186. Alex Cord
189. Andrew Crescenzi
190. Darren Archibald
192. Michael Kantor

4. Mark Visentin
11. Michael Houser
12. Ramis Sadikov
15. Phil Grubauer
19. Scott Wedgewood
23. Bryce O'Hagan
25. Petr Mrazek
27. J.P. Anderson

The official release of the rankings as a whole can be found here.

Should you want to compare this list with the Preliminary and Midterm rankings, they can be found here and here.

Some thoughts:
  • Obviously the biggest shock comes at the top where we've been thrown a bit of a curveball. Not only is Seguin rated ahead of Hall, but Gudbranson has jumped ahead of Cam Fowler for the third spot from the OHL. While it may be surprising, it really isn't mind blowing or anything. It's not like these guys are miles apart. We've known all season about the Tyler vs. Taylor debate, and as of late, there's been a lot about Gudbranson and the QMJHL's Brandon Gormley catching up to Cam Fowler for the best defenseman available. While I'm definitely still on the Taylor Hall bandwagon, I have to admit I'm pretty close to being on the Erik Gudbranson bandwagon myself. I'm looking forward to seeing how he plays at the Under 18's.
  • Biggest risers on the list are Michael Sgarbossa (+91 spots), Geoffrey Schemitsch (+46 spots), Christian Thomas (+45 spots), Jared Knight (+41 spots), and Freddie Hamilton (+40 spots). Not really any surprises there, however Sgarbossa is a little bit puzzling considering his production dropped after the trade from Barrie. But if you factor in how low he was ranked before, I suppose the large jump makes sense.
  • Biggest fallers on the list are Austin Levi (-39 spots), Cameron Wind (-23 spots), Josh Shalla (-20 spots), and Joe Rogalski (-16 spots). Again, none are really surprising to me. I figured Austin Levi would be rated higher than he is, but at the same time I've been lukewarm on him all season.
  • As for surprising absentees, Niagara's Matt Petgrave, Mississauga's Riley Brace, Plymouth's Colin MacDonald, Saginaw's Ryan O'Connor, and Sarnia's Nathan Chiarlitti. Most interesting is that O'Connor and Chiarlitti were good enough for Team Canada at the Under 18's, but not good enough to be ranked for the draft. Also really surprised at Brace, whose outstanding playoffs thus far for Missy were likely not taken into consideration.
  • Also, good to see Darren Archibald ranked again. Not many guys on their third go around at the draft get ranked by Central Scouting, so I think it's definitely a good sign that they saw fit to put him on this list. Only the WHL's Radko Gudas and Craig Cunningham made the list (ahead of Archibald) as 1990's on their third chance of getting drafted (born January to mid September). I know he's definitely at the top of my list for draft re-entries this year (which will be an upcoming Sunday Top 10).
Of course, you can expect my final rankings for the OHL in the coming weeks. I like to wait until the OHL playoffs and World Under 18's are over before finalizing my rankings.

As for the NHL's Central Scouting Rankings, what are your thoughts?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Thirteen from the OHL are Off to Belarus for the World Under 18's

Over Easter long weekend, Hockey Canada announced the roster for Team Canada at the upcoming World Under 18's in Belarus. The roster is made up of the top 1992 and younger players from around the country, regardless of the league they play in. However, all of these players must already have been eliminated from the playoffs in their CHL or other league (USHL, Junior A, etc). Usually the team consists of predominantly NHL draft age players (or birth years), so in this case 1992's. However, Hockey Canada almost always brings along a few younger players for the experience.

Due to the fact that Canada does not often bring their best players (because most are tied up in the playoffs like Tyler Seguin), we have not fared incredibly well in the event over the years. Since the tournament came to fruition in 1999, we have only won twice (2003 and 2008). We've only medalled three times in total (with a silver in 2005). That puts us in fifth in total medals behind Russia, The United States, Finland and Sweden. This year is probably another uphill battle.

Even if we tend to be the underdogs in this tournament, the one purpose the Under 18's do serve is to evaluate talent for the 2010 NHL Entry Draft (or the entry draft that's occurring in any year of the tournament). This year, 20 of the team's 22 players are eligible for this years NHL draft. The tournament allows scouts one last look at certain players before making a judgment call on them. It also allows them to compare certain players as they are pitted against one another. Being named to the Canadian roster for this tournament is often a good sign of NHL draft potential. The last two years, every draft eligible player sent by Canada to the tournament was drafted.

It's really a pity that the don't receive more broadcasting than they do though, which will definitely be the case this year as the tournament is held in Belarus. Even still, look for TSN to air a few of the games, the medal round at the very least.

Here are the OHL players you'll see wearing the Maple Leaf:


Geoffrey Schemitsch - Owen Sound
Erik Gudbranson - Kingston
Nathan Chiarlitti - Sarnia
Stephen Silas - Belleville
Ryan O'Connor - Saginaw
Brock Beukeboom - Sault Ste. Marie

Steven Shipley - Owen Sound
Michael Sgarbossa - Saginaw
Christian Thomas - Oshawa
John McFarland - Sudbury
Ryan Spooner - Peterborough
Freddie Hamilton - Niagara
Greg McKegg - Erie

The full roster can be found at Hockey Canada.

Canada has an exhibition game on the 10th against Finland and then kicks off the tournament on the 13th of April against Switzerland.